|Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis)|
DESCRIPTION: Shrub to 7'. Leaves simple, smooth-edged, elliptical, grayish-green, and leathery. Dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants). Flowers bloom in winter and are greenish-yellow. Female flowers occur singly and male flowers are in clusters (look like a bunch of very small grapes). Fruit is an acorn-shaped seed (up to 1" long) that begins green and turns brown with age. Simmondsiaceae (Jojoba) Family (only 1 species) [or placed in Buxaceae (Box) Family].
NATURAL HISTORY: Pronounced "hoe-HOE-buh". Flowers are wind-pollinated, but rarely are people allergic to the pollen. Leaves are oriented vertically, serving both to reduce midday leaf temperatures during the summer and to direct pollen blowing in the wind into the the female's flowers by eddies formed by the leaves. It is often stated (e.g., ASDM 2000) that the male to female ratio is 4 to 1 in AZ, but my students' studies have not always found this to be the case (see what you observe). The seeds are filled (40%) with a liquid wax that matches sperm whale oil in quality. This has reduced the pressure on the now-endangered sperm whales for the high quality lubricants used in many industrial processes. Jojoba wax is also used in cosmetics (look for it in your shampoo). Many animals eat the foliage and seeds. Warning: although the seeds are edible to humans, we cannot digest the waxes which will act as a laxative if you eat too many (how many is too many?...it depends).